Reinventing the Wheel

A Buddhist Response to the Information Age

By Peter D. Hershock

Subjects: Buddhism
Series: SUNY series in Philosophy and Biology
Paperback : 9780791442326, 309 pages, July 1999
Hardcover : 9780791442319, 309 pages, July 1999

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Table of contents


Part One
The Axis of Factual Success: From Controlling Circumstances to Colonizing Consciousness

Chapter 1. Technology and the Biasing of Conduct: Establishing the Grammar of Our Narrative


Primordial Technology in the Drama of Childhood
Freedom As a Dialectic of Projecting Self and Objecting World


Chapter 2. The Canons of Freedom and Moral Transparency: In Technology and the Media We Trust


The Imagined Neutrality of Technology
Individual Freedom and the Obdurate, Objecting World
Just Saying No to the Logic of Choice


Chapter 3. Technology As Savior: It's Getting Better, Better All the Time


Technology: The Original Broken Promise
Toward an Ethics of Resistance


Chapter 4. The Direction of Technical Evolution: A Different Kind of Caveat


Cultivating Discontent: Advantaging Existence—Living Apart and at a Distance
The Corporation As Technology


Chapter 5. The New Colonialism: From an Ignoble Past to an Invisible Future


Extending Control through Cultivating Dependence: The Colonial Method
The Evolution of Colonial Intent into the Development Objective and Beyond
The Colonization of Consciousness


Chapter 6. Pluralism Versus the Commodification of Values


Is There a Universal Technological Path?
Independent Values, the Value of Independence, and the Erosion of Traditions


Part Two
Practicing the Unprecedented: A Buddhist Intermission

Chapter 7. Appreciative Virtuosity: The Buddhist Alternative to Control and Independence


Liberating Intimacy: A New Copernican Revolution
Responding to Trouble: The Character of Buddhist Technologies
Technological Difference: The Case of Healing
Unlocking the Treasury: A Matter of Will or the Fruit of Offering?
Practicing the Dissolution of Wanting


Part Three
The Wheel of Dramatic Impoverishment: The Crisis of Community in the Information Age

Chapter 8. Concentrating Power: Are Technologies of Control Ever Truly Democratic?


Control and the Conflicts of Advantage
Mediated Control and the "Democratic" Process
The Societal Nature of a Controlling Advantage
Just Saying No: A Case History of Technical Dilemma
The Meaningless Politics of Generic Democracy


Chapter 9. Narcissism and Nihilism: The Atrophy of Dramatic Attention and the End of Authentic Materialism


Rationalizing Subjectivity: The Imperative Splitting of the Nuclear Self
Nothing Really Matters Anymore, Not Even Matter
Iconography and the End of Materialism
Losing Our Direction: The Iconic Roots of Boredom
From Perception to Conception: Deepening the New, Lock Groove
The Commodity-Driven Translation of Desiring into Wanting


Chapter 10. The New Meaning of Biography: The Efficient Self in Calculated Crisis


Commerce and Commodity: The New Grammar and Vocabulary of "I Am . . ."
The Efficiency of Stress: Controlling Time and Misguiding Attention
The Infertility of Expert Mind
The Victimization of Suffering: An Expert Inversion
The Commodification of Dramatic Meaning
Consuming and Being Consumed: The Law of the Postmodern Jungle
The Rationality of Litter: Consuming Self, Consumed Community
The Production of Biographical Litter: Changing Minds in an Age of Lifestyle Choices


Chapter 11. The Digital Age and the Defeat of Chaos: Attentive Modality, the Media, and the Loss of Narrative Wilderness


A Reason to Be Naive: Disparities in the Metaphysics of Meaning
Calculation and Narration: Disparate Modes of World-Making
The Digital Defeat of Analogy: The Numerology of Rational Values
The Media and Digital Trouble: Suffering Alone Together
Mediation and Mediocrity
Media and the Declining Narrativity of Popular Culture
The Mediated Wilderness
The Density of Postmodern Time and Space and the Craving for Volume


Chapter 12. So What?



Suggests that certain Buddhist notions may act as an antidote to the adverse effects of high-tech media.


By uniquely using Buddhist teachings, Reinventing the Wheel assesses the personal and communal costs of our global economic and technological commitments. Hershock urges reinvention of the technological "wheel," and, at the same time, acknowledges the need for new forms of practice suited to our rapidly evolving social, political, and economic circumstances. His persuasive presentation urges the skillful spinning of a new "wheel of the dharma. "

Peter D. Hershock is a Fellow of the Asian Studies Development Program at the East-West Center in Honolulu. He is the author of Liberating Intimacy: Enlightenment and Social Virtuosity in Ch'an Buddhism, also published by SUNY Press.


"Hershock clearly brings the root suppositions of western cultural dynamics to our awareness, while contrasting its fundamental values such as independence, individual freedom, and a control of the world, with those of Buddhism. If we continue to accept these western cultural presuppositions, he argues, they will trap us in a 'wheel' of existence, in life's perpetual karmic circle. Although many tend to think that technology is a savior, this is merely an illusion—it colonizes our consciousness. Hence, Hershock argues that we must reinvent the wheel of existence by replacing independence with interdependence, control with appreciation, being with value. In a word, we must free ourselves from ego-based desire through the practice of Zen meditation for the sake of the health and sanity of humanity. He asks the reader to weigh the consequences if we choose to remain oblivious to the karmic bind and its perpetual circle. " — Shigenori Nagatomo, author of Attunement Through the Body

"Reinventing the Wheel demonstrates the necessity to accommodate spirituality within the context of an inexorably technological society. It enjoins, with however light a touch, not simply reflection but practice. We are provided some suggestions as to how we might take back the consciousness from which we have become increasingly alienated by technological media. " — David L. Hall, author of Anticipating China: Thinking through the Narratives of Chinese and Western Culture (with Roger T. Ames)

"On the edge of the third millennium with technologies accelerating the pace of change, this is indeed a timely and exciting piece of scholarship. " — Roger T. Ames, editor of Self as Image in Asian Theory and Practice (with Thomas P. Kasulis and Wimal Dissanayake)